What is Indian Pink Poisoning?
Indian pink usually grows to be about three feet tall with pale green foliage and short hairs along the stem and underside of the leaves. During the winter, these plants are just a small round group of leaves that looks like a weed, sending up a stem during the springtime where the dark red flowers will grow in the summertime.
Indian pink poisoning in dogs is caused by the ingestion of any part of the Indian pink plant. Dermatitis is also possible from exposure to the sap in the Indian pink plant. The toxic properties in Indian pink are alkaloids that are similar to nicotine, which cause symptoms ranging from nervousness to death. One of the substances in Indian pink, lobeline, is known to cause stimulation of the nervous system in the first few minutes, changing to depression of the nervous system severe enough to cause paralysis and may even be lethal. The seeds are dangerous too and contain lysergic acid diethylamide, which can produce hallucinations, confusion, and drowsiness. This is the same toxic substance used to make the drug, LSD, and consuming as little as two seeds can be fatal in some dogs.
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Symptoms of Indian Pink Poisoning in Dogs
Since there are so many different toxic substances in the Indian pink plant, the side effects can vary quite a bit. These substances can affect the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, and central nervous system.
- Abdominal pain
- Rapid breathing
- Breathing difficulty
- Respiratory failure
- Inability to control muscle movement
- Increased heart rate
- Extreme tiredness
Central nervous system
- Muscle tightness and pain
The scientific name for Indian pink is lobelia cardinalis from the Campanulaceae family, but it is known by many other names, such as:
- Asthma weed
- Gag root
- High belia
- Indian tobacco
- Puke weed
- Wild tobacco
Causes of Indian Pink Poisoning in Dogs
There are 14 alkaloids in the Indian pink plant, which include:
- Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
Diagnosis of Indian Pink Poisoning in Dogs
To get a definitive diagnosis, the veterinarian will want to know exactly what your dog ate and how much. It would be helpful if you could bring in a sample of the plant or take a picture. If you have a copy of your pet’s medical records, you should bring that or if not, just be sure to tell her about any medications your dog has been given. A physical examination will be done, which includes your dog’s blood pressure, breath sounds, heart rate, oxygen levels, body temperature, weight, and reflexes. A urine and stool sample may be taken at this time as well. Also, laboratory tests will need to be done to eliminate other illnesses or disease and to determine how well your dog’s vital organs are functioning. Some of the tests that may be needed are a complete blood count, arterial blood gases, packed cell volume, potassium, bilirubin, calcium, serum-creatinine, biochemical profile, and liver enzyme panel. In addition, the veterinarian may decide to perform an endoscopy. This procedure is done with a long tube that has a light on the end to get a good look at your pet’s airway and esophagus. Also, digital radiographs (x-rays) of the abdomen may be taken so the veterinarian can see any blockages or inflammation as well as plant particles or sap that may be still in your dog’s system. An endoscopy will also be performed to check for inflammation of the throat and airway. In some cases, an ultrasound, MRI, and CT scans may be needed to get a more detailed look.
Treatment of Indian Pink Poisoning in Dogs
Treating your dog for Indian pink poisoning depends on the test results and the overall condition of your pet at the time. Most often, treating a poisoning case includes evacuation, detoxification, medication, and observation.
It is essential to get the toxic substances out of your dog’s system, so the veterinarian may give your dog ipecac or a peroxide solution to precipitate vomiting. Activated charcoal can also be helpful in absorbing any undigested toxins or plant particles. Depending on how much your pet consumed, this step may be repeated.
The next step is to flush the kidneys by giving intravenous (IV) fluids, which also helps prevent dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea. The veterinarian may also decide to do a gastric lavage by flushing the intestinal system with warm saline solution.
Atropine or phentolamine may be added to the IV to help ease the overactive nerves and muscles, propranolol for cardiac irregularity, and stomach protectants for settling the stomach irritation. Oxygen therapy will usually be started as well due to the risk of respiratory failure.
The veterinarian will probably want to keep your dog for a few hours for observation and continued supportive treatment. It is not uncommon for an overnight hospital stay in cases of Indian pink poisoning.
Recovery of Indian Pink Poisoning in Dogs
The veterinarian will allow you to take your pet home when the toxicity level is low enough to be safe. A bland diet and plenty of fresh water and rest are recommended for a few days. Removing the Indian pink plant from your home or garden is recommended as well. Call your veterinarian if you have any questions.